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Why Guided Imagery Is Such an Effective, Non-Addictive Treatment for Pain

12 Dec

Hey, folks!

Just a reminder that any gifts that require ground shipping need to be ordered by Monday, December 19th to ensure they arrive before Christmas or Chanukah (both Christmas Eve and the first night of Chanukah begin on December 24th this year).

Now I want to talk a little bit about the advantages of using guided imagery for either chronic or acute pain. 

With all the sudden nationwide concern about the escalating addiction to opioids, I thought it a good time to remind people that guided imagery is a safe, effective alternative to popping meds, or, at the very least, it can help reduce their intake.

Pain, by definition, is a matter of perception, which means we can use guided imagery to interrupt and distract our awareness of it, which is the same as lowering its intensity.  We can also reframe the experience of pain in a way that gives us a sense of mastery and efficacy over it. Our Health Journeys guided imagery, Ease Pain, provides imagery for both options.   

Guided imagery that’s designed to turn attention away from pain - provide a vacation from it, so to speak – is often a first choice when we’re dealing with chronic pain. This would be the imagery that takes us to a favorite time or place; or engenders natural feelings of lovingness and gratitude; or recalls some especially sweet, nourishing memories; or imagines mastery and success. 

Needless to say, these types of uplifting, heart-based imaginings also release powerful endogenous opioids – serotonin and its mood-lifting, pain-reducing cousins.  (That’s usually the first observation our vets will share after a guided imagery exercise – that their chronic headache, back ache or knee pain has vanished.)

The other kind of guided imagery focuses attention toward the pain, befriends it and embraces it.  Imagery that encourages us to adopt a warrior stance and dive into our pain - breathe into it and through it, soften around it and accept it- is often the preferred option for acute pain, which is not always so amenable to distraction.  It’s what a lot of childbirth exercises are about. 

There are no hard and fast rules about which approach works best.  Most people develop their own combination of these two approaches.

Either way, anything that helps people cease and desist their automatic attempts to hold off pain or resist it, is going to help.  The truth is, fighting with pain, tensing up around it, getting angry at it, or trying to hold it at bay has the paradoxical effect of intensifying it.

And because guided imagery has long-established its clout for reducing anxiety, and because anxiety increases the perception of pain, we know that the calming, soothing and relaxing properties of guided imagery will further decrease pain.

There’s more to be said, but this is enough for now.  Please share this information with anyone you think could use it, and wherever you feel it’s appropriate. 

All best,

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Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award

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